The second name of the promised Messiah mentioned in Isaiah 9:6 is Mighty God. To those anticipating his arrival, he would come to subdue the enemies of Israel and become the leader of a strong, prosperous kingdom. No one imagined the advent of a tiny baby, born in a stable to poor, unknown parents. God’s might and power continues to be misunderstood. There are those who would claim it for their own political and personal agenda. Others seek a spectacular miracle that would free them from all physical pain and struggle. I believe God works in powerful ways, but more often he works through our frailty and weakness. One of my favourite movies is Chariots of Fire. In one scene, Eric Liddle is in the pulpit of a church reading from the fortieth chapter of Isaiah. As an athlete dealing with an ethical dilemma at the 1924 Olympic games, he knew the Source of his moral and physical strength. Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Our human experience will include illness, grief, loss, and pain. Hardship can increase our compassion, or make us hard and bitter. I work with people who are sick, and often see the strength and beauty of God shining through their weakened bodies. My life has been blessed, and my struggles few, but hard times have given me more empathy and understanding with the sufferings of others.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine lost her husband to cancer, leaving her widowed with five young children. At his funeral, this poem written by Annie Johnson Flint was sung. It has become one of my favourite hymns. Annie Johnson Flint, born on Christmas Eve in 1866, was orphaned at an early age, and spent 40 years of her life as an invalid, crippled by severe arthritis.
On this second Sunday of Advent, the Mighty God would give the gift of strength to those burdened with illness, bereavement, care giving, separation from loved ones, or family and personal problems.
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labours increase; To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials, his multiplied peace. When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed e're the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again Annie J. Flint (1866-1932)